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How To Beat the "Heartbreak" Hill

For the 119th time runners from across the globe will flock to the historic city of Boston, Massachusetts to participate in the famous Boston Marathon.  This marathon is famous for a certain hill that goes by the nickname of “Heartbreak Hill.”  Hills are common in marathons but this one stands above the rest due to the placement as it sits at around mile 20.   While most of the race is pounding downhill’s, runners face Heartbreak Hill with tired legs and 91 feet of elevation to climb. 

In honor of Heartbreak Hill, this blog will cover hill training and the importance it has in a runner’s regimen; no matter how much they are dreaded.

Hill training after a few rounds is grueling and tiring, which makes it an excellent and efficient way to build power, strength and endurance.  An athlete will also see benefits in their recovery times between uphill sessions because of less stress on the muscles.  Not only do hills advance you as a runner physiologically but your running mechanics can benefit greatly.


When you’re running uphill you are forced to have powerful arm swings, a strong lead knee drive and a smooth back leg extension.  You will naturally have a mid/forefoot strike and increase a more powerful hip drive.  Always keep in mind to stay tall and not bend over at the waist which causes a shift in your center of gravity and can throw you off slightly.

Now we have two benefits of hill training: the first is a physiological advantage you gain through muscular strength and endurance as well as proper running mechanics. There’s more!  It is near impossible to injure yourself while running uphill. Unlike downhill running that can cause knee injuries, muscle pulls, rolled ankles and hard falls…the uphill run will keep you in a more natural running form making it difficult to injure yourself.

After you gain a strong base in power is when you can increase your hill training to longer intervals totaling between 20-40 minutes.  Mix up your hills from steep to trail to even a sand hill to keep your workouts challenging and gain different benefits from each one.

Whether it be physiological, form or injury prevention uphill training is an excellent tool for all athletes to incorporate into their training plan.  Let us know if you have any favorite types of hills you train on!

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